In a move that could further imperil his already weakened status in the Democratic Caucus and fuel talk about his split loyalties, Sen. Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.) Wednesday took center stage in the GOPs mounting attacks on the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.).
Lieberman participated in a media conference call Wednesday morning organized by House Minority Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) criticizing Obamas stance on the Middle East.
Liebermans criticisms came in response to Obamas speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, which was his first major address after claiming his partys nomination late Tuesday night.
Furthermore, during a Senate vote Wednesday, Obama dragged Lieberman by the hand to a far corner of the Senate chamber and engaged in what appeared to reporters in the gallery as an intense, three-minute conversation.
While it was unclear what the two were discussing, the body language suggested that Obama was trying to convince Lieberman of something and his stance appeared slightly intimidating.
Using forceful, but not angry, hand gestures, Obama literally backed up Lieberman against the wall, leaned in very close at times, and appeared to be trying to dominate the conversation, as the two talked over each other in a few instances.
Still, Obama and Lieberman seemed to be trying to keep the back-and-forth congenial as they both patted each other on the back during and after the exchange.
Afterwards, Obama smiled and pointed up at reporters peering over the edge of the press gallery for a better glimpse of their interaction.
Obama loyalists were quick to express their frustration with Liebermans decision and warned that if he continues to take a lead role in attacking Obama it could complicate his professional relationship with the Caucus.
It's a difficult situation, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Wednesday. Joe is my friend ... but I hope he doesnt become the lead attack dog.
The longtime Obama supporter also acknowledged that Liebermans role in Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) presidential campaign continues to be a concern for members of the Democratic Caucus and could become more so if he continues to play such a prominent role in attacking McCains Democratic rival.
Of course its a concern when someone in your Caucus is supporting the other partys candidate. Lets not try and sugarcoat it, Durbin said.
While Lieberman Wednesday declined to say whether he would continue acting as a surrogate for McCain in attacking Obama, he stated that he would not put his work in Congress in jeopardy by participating in the McCain campaign.
Obviously I support Sen. McCain ... but I can only do so much as long as it doesnt interfere with what Im doing here, Lieberman said.
When asked whether his activities should bring his role as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee into question, Lieberman said he would leave that decision up to the Democratic Caucus. That's up to my colleagues, he said.